“Is it safe?” is the first question people ask when they see no one is in the tractor cab. Schildroth says Kinze has taken many steps to address safety concerns, ranging from the hinged stairs to the sensors, radar, etc. that halt the vehicle when obstacles appear.

The system also has emergency stop buttons. The combine operator can push an emergency stop button installed in the combine cab. Hand-held emergency stop buttons also may be used by workers in the field. These will immediately stop the system.

“Robotic vehicles operate just as safely at the end of a long 16-hour day as at the beginning,” Schildroth says. “Not many humans can make that claim.”